Driving up Boulder Canyon, the cars in front of me abruptly come to a stop. After eight years living in Nederland, I’m used to slow traffic in summer. Seems like everybody wants to get out of the heat and head to the mountains. But this time is different. The cars aren’t moving.
Turns out after years of Boulder Falls being closed, the falls trail reopened this weekend. And every single person wanted to park and walk to the infamous falls.
I say that “tongue in cheek” because of my own first time experience viewing the falls. We’d just moved to Nederland, and as we drove up from Boulder, saw a blinking sign about “Boulder Falls”. Having lived in the Sierra and spent a great deal of time in Yosemite, I envisioned a magnificent waterfall. After all, a big parking area had been built along the road for all the visitors to see the falls. During a hot summer day, who doesn’t love a waterfall? So we pulled over and parked, anxious to see the Boulder Falls.
After we parked, walked across the road and walked down the path, what I saw contrasted greatly with my vision. A small waterfall that dropped perhaps 20-25 feet greeted me. I looked around. Maybe this was just a cascade and I had to walk further to see the actual falls?
No, this was the end of the path, and indeed those “cascades” were Boulder Falls.
Colorado is famous for its breathtaking scenery — soaring peaks above 14,000 feet, alpine lakes, canyons filled with granite cliffs. But waterfalls? Not so much.
Working at Rocky Mountain National Park, I became very well acquainted with hiking in the park. And there are some dramatic ones with views that will take your breath away — Flattop Mountain, Lake Haiyaha, Chasm Lake, Mt. Ida — are just a few that come to mind.
And yet probably THE most popular hike in the park is none other than Alberta Falls. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a nice hike. The trail winds through a bunch of aspen trees paralleing the river and then you come to a series of cascades. During peak snowmelt, a lot of water can pour through there, but it just doesn’t have that awe factor of notable waterfalls in California and Oregon. And the amount of people it attracts takes away from the wilderness experience so many of us crave. The last time I hiked to the falls, I was practically shoulder to shoulder with more than a hundred people.
And if you are a true lover of waterfalls, look no further than the state of Oregon. When we criss-crossed the Cascades on a trip there several years ago, there were so many waterfalls, we tired of them. Many waterfalls we visited didn’t have a single other person looking at them. McKenzie Falls with ice blue water, Multnomah Falls with its multiple drops, little known Watson Falls near Roseburg. All of those waterfalls would put Boulder Falls to shame. In total, there are 238 waterfalls in Oregon, more than any other state.
And if you’re dead set on seeing a waterfall in Colorado, get ready to hit the road, because it’s nowhere near the Front Range. Probably the most picturesque (and biggest) waterfall in the state is Bridalveil Falls outside Telluride. But it will require an effort to get there. After you drive eight hours from Denver, you’ll climb over 1,600 feet over the course of 1.8 miles to see the water pour 365 feet down the dark cliff.